Loving Myself, really?…

If your love for another person doesn’t include loving yourself then your love is incomplete. Shannon L. Alder

Meditation: Every Sunday I am ending the worship service of the German church here in Atlanta with the words: “And now go forth, love God, love yourself and love and serve the world!” Some attendees might be surprised that I name “love of self” second and not last. Growing up with Pietistic teaching, the love of self was always mentioned last, if at all. And often it had a more utilitarian sound to it: “Preserve yourself so you can be a better servant for God and live long to serve others.” The notion of “loving self” was often associated with the notion of being “selfish, self-absorbed, vain, or greedy”… It took me many years to shed these preconceptions that self-love is basically sinful. When I finally came to fully embrace and love myself (with a change of my theology and a lot of therapy), what a liberation! My love for others has become more genuine, less forced, less moralistic and is no longer an effort to “please” God or others. Genuinely loving myself enables me to truly love others as well. This is a mystery. And so, as pastor when sending my congregation forth, I first name God as the Source of all Love, then I name loving ourselves as the genuine basis for all human love that is then being shared with others and the world.

Prayer: God, Source of all Love, you created us so we would love ourselves the way you love us. You delight in us, so we can delight in ourselves as well. You embrace all of us, so we can learn to embrace all of who we are, too. You forgive us, so we can be gentle with ourselves and learn to forgive ourselves and others. As you send us forth into the world, you first want us to develop a loving relationship with You and also with ourselves. And then all we are and all we do radiates from this place of abounding love. And we are grateful. Amen

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22: 37-39